SIF accused in phone poll row

Opponents of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) are accusing the insurer of attempting to justify its existence via a “half-baked and amateurish” phone poll.

SIF is believed to have engaged market research company ORC International to canvass solicitors' views on professional indemnity.

The move follows a postal ballot in which 70 per cent of voters opted for an open market insurance scheme.

Christopher Hales, chairman of the City anti-SIF campaigners, The November Group, says: “There is little doubt in my mind that either SIF or the Law Society is fighting some sort of rearguard action following the ballot.”

Fred Perrin, senior partner at Luton firm Perrins, who was contacted by ORC, claims the exercise is a “set-up”.

“What concerned me was that I suspected loaded questions were being asked which would seek to justify SIF's continued existence,” says Perrin.

Hales says: “A lot of the questions seem flighted to one sort of answer. There is such a thing as 'push polling'.”

Perrin says the researcher was obviously unbriefed and the questions so complex that he refused to answer without seeing them in writing.

The researcher referred him to SIF's director of communications, Sharon Bolton, who, he says, acted “guarded and defensive” and refused to give him a copy of the questions.

Bolton confirmed ORC was instructed to provide evidence to be put before the Law Society council meeting on 23 June.